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posted by hubie on Wednesday August 03, @04:44AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the I-want-one dept.

An unnamed contributor wrote:

NuScale will get the final approval nearly six years after starting the process:

On Friday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that it would be issuing a certification to a new nuclear reactor design, making it just the seventh that has been approved for use in the US. But in some ways, it's a first: the design, from a company called NuScale, is a small modular reactor that can be constructed at a central facility and then moved to the site where it will be operated.

[...] Once complete, the certification is published in the Federal Register, allowing the design to be used in the US. Friday's announcement says that the NRC is all set to take the publication step.

The NRC will still have to weigh in on the sites where any of these reactors are deployed. Currently, one such site is in the works: a project called the Carbon Free Power Project, which will be situated at Idaho National Lab. That's expected to be operational in 2030 but has been facing some financial uncertainty. Utilities that might use the power produced there have grown hesitant to commit money to the project.

Previous stories:
First Major Modular Nuclear Project Having Difficulty Retaining Backers
US Gives First-Ever OK for Small Commercial Nuclear Reactor
The US Government Just Invested Big in Small-Scale Nuclear Power
Safer Nuclear Reactors on the Horizon


Original Submission

Related Stories

Safer Nuclear Reactors on the Horizon 34 comments

Nuclear reactors are seen emotionally as risky due to a few major accidents, but new technologies are coming which will potentially reduce the risks associated with it dramatically.

Commercial reactors have used the same fuel for decades: small pellets of uranium dioxide stacked inside long cylindrical rods made of a zirconium alloy. Zirconium allows the neutrons generated from fission in the pellets to readily pass among the many rods submerged in water inside a reactor core, supporting a self-sustaining, heat-producing nuclear reaction.

Trouble is, if the zirconium overheats, it can react with water and produce hydrogen, which can explode.

To reduce this risk,

[m]anufacturers such as Westinghouse Electric Company and Framatome are hastening development of so-called accident-tolerant fuels that are less likely to overheat—and if they do, will produce very little or no hydrogen. In some of the variations, the zirconium cladding is coated to minimize reactions. In others, zirconium and even the uranium dioxide are replaced with different materials. The new configurations could be slipped into existing reactors with little modification, so they could be phased in during the 2020s.

Core testing of some of these options is already underway and would have to be successful and regulatory hurdles overcome. Additionally, some of the options actually improve efficiency (and consequently cost-effectiveness) of plants. Sadly, 'Too cheap to meter' remains well off the table.

Modern plants, such as are being deployed by Russia both at home and abroad, now include

“passive” safety systems that can squelch overheating even if electrical power at the plant is lost and coolant cannot be actively circulated. Westinghouse and other companies have incorporated passive safety features into their updated designs as well.

The US Government Just Invested Big in Small-Scale Nuclear Power 39 comments

The US Government Just Invested Big in Small-Scale Nuclear Power:

Amid the coronavirus lockdowns around the world, one of few positive pieces of news we've heard is that carbon emissions have dropped dramatically. The clearer skies and cleaner air have led to a renewed vigor behind calls for retiring fossil fuels and investing more heavily in renewable energy. Proponents of renewables tend to focus on solar and wind as the best green energy sources, leaving out a lingeringly controversial yet crucial player: nuclear power.

Last week, the US Department of Energy (DOE) shone a light on nuclear's potential in the most effective possible way: by dumping a bunch of money on it. The DOE launched its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program to the tune of $230 million. That sum is broken down into $160 million for scientists currently working on nuclear reactors that could be operational in 5 to 7 years, and another $70 million for additional research and development down the road.

US Gives First-Ever OK for Small Commercial Nuclear Reactor 45 comments

For the first time, U.S. officials have approved a small nuclear power plant design.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission [(NRC)] on Friday approved Portland-based NuScale Power's application for the small modular reactor that Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems plans to build at a U.S. Department of Energy site in eastern Idaho.

The small reactors can produce about 60 megawatts of energy, or enough to power more than 50,000 homes. The proposed project includes 12 small modular reactors. The first would be built in 2029, with the rest in 2030.

NuScale says the reactors have advanced safety features, including self-cooling and automatic shutdown.

"This is a significant milestone not only for NuScale, but also for the entire U.S. nuclear sector and the other advanced nuclear technologies that will follow," said NuScale Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins in a statement.

The cooperative pushing the effort will next need to submit an application to the NRC for a combined construction and operating license and expects this to be ready within two years.

Also at Ars Technica.


Original Submission

First Major Modular Nuclear Project Having Difficulty Retaining Backers 8 comments

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Earlier this year, the US took a major step that could potentially change the economics of nuclear power: it approved a design for a small, modular nuclear reactor from a company called NuScale. These small reactors are intended to overcome the economic problems that have ground the construction of large nuclear plants to a near halt. While each only produces a fraction of the power possible with a large plant, the modular design allows for mass production and a design that requires less external safety support.

But safety approval is just an early step in the process of building a plant. And the leading proposal for the first NuScale plant is running into the same problem as traditional designs: finances.

The proposal, called the Carbon Free Power Project, would be a cluster of a dozen NuScale reactors based at Idaho National Lab but run by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, or UAMPS. With all 12 operating, the plant would produce 720 MW of power. But UAMPS is selling it as a way to offer the flexibility needed to complement variable renewable power. Typically, a nuclear plant is either producing or not, but the modular design allows the Carbon Free Power Project to shut individual reactors off if demand is low.

But keeping a plant idle means you're not selling any power from it, making it more difficult to pay off the initial investment made to produce it and adding to the financial risks. Further increasing risk is the fact that this is the first project of its kind—the NuScale website lists it as "NuScale's First Plant." All of this appears to be making things complicated for the Carbon Free Power Project.


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by FatPhil on Wednesday August 03, @07:03AM

    by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Wednesday August 03, @07:03AM (#1264741) Homepage
    They've already made deals to work towards installation of reactors in the EU
    """
    PORTLAND, Ore.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- NuScale Power LLC (“NuScale”) announced today a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with Romania’s state nuclear power corporation S.N. Nuclearelectrica S.A. (“Nuclearelectrica”) to conduct engineering studies, technical reviews, and licensing and permitting activities at a site in Doicesti, Romania that is the preferred location for the deployment of the first NuScale VOYGR™ power plant.
    """ -- https://newsroom.nuscalepower.com/press-releases/news-details/2022/NuScale-Power-Signs-Agreement-with-Nuclearelectrica-and-Owner-of-Preferred-Site-for-First-SMR-Site-in-Romania/default.aspx

    I first heard of them from the Uranium Insider newsletter, and - despite hating even the very idea of SPACs - I went in with some small hobby quantities at lauch. Since then (the start of the year) it's up 50%, in sharp contrast to most of the stock market, as there's been a lot of positive press regarding progress worldwide.
    --
    Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by turgid on Wednesday August 03, @10:29AM (6 children)

    by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 03, @10:29AM (#1264751) Journal

    I just read the summary at the link and it says that heat is extracted from the core by boiling water. Historically, there has been a problem with this design of reactor, and that is that the primary coolant is used directly in the turbines to turn the alternators.

    You can see where this is going. There will be radioactive contamination in the primary coolant, so you end up having a radioactive turbine hall. No cooling loop is 100% sealed so there will be leaks of radioactive steam as well as radiation coming off of the steam and water that hasn't leaked.

    This is one of the reasons that BWRs were replaced by PWRs. In a PWR, the primary coolant is under a lot of pressure so can get up to about 330C (maybe a bit more) and is then used to heat a secondary coolant via heat exchangers, which does not become contaminated and therefore not radioactive. The turbine hall is clean and safe for personnel. The added advantage is higher output because of the higher temperatures of the steam.

    If they've solved these problems, it might work.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by bradley13 on Wednesday August 03, @10:58AM (3 children)

      by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 03, @10:58AM (#1264754) Homepage Journal

      For what it's worth, the journalist has done what journalists always do: write about something they don't understand. Although the Nuscale website doesn't use the term, it's pretty clear that thus is a PWR. They write:

      As the hot water in the reactor system passes over the hundreds of tubes in the steam generator, heat is transferred through the tube walls and the water inside the tubes turns to superheated steam.

      It still seems a fairly old fashioned design, but maybe that helps keep costs down.

      Now they need to build hundreds of the things, not just one or two.

      --
      Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
      • (Score: 2) by turgid on Wednesday August 03, @01:09PM (1 child)

        by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 03, @01:09PM (#1264768) Journal

        PWRs are very safe if you can keep water in them and keep it circulating in case of an accident. Modern designs that allow convective cooling are great because they can still remove the decay heat after shutdown if all the pumps fail. Obviously, the secondary cooling loop has to remain intact and there has to be somewhere for the heat to go.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by Immerman on Thursday August 04, @04:38PM

          by Immerman (3985) on Thursday August 04, @04:38PM (#1264927)

          They're claiming to be the first LWR to provide an unlimited coping time without power or additional water. I believe that means they can bring the core's power output down below what at least the secondary cooling loop can passively shed into the ambient air. https://www.nuscalepower.com/technology/design-innovations [nuscalepower.com]

      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday August 04, @04:23PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Thursday August 04, @04:23PM (#1264925)

        I recall hearing (speculation?) that the motivation for the old-fashioned design was to accelerate both design and regulatory approval.

        It might not be as theoretically safe as something like the molten salt reactors others are working on - but it's well understood technology just packaged in a new way, so the regulators are less hesitant to approve it, confident that real-world safety issues are also well-understood and adequately addressed.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by PinkyGigglebrain on Wednesday August 03, @06:00PM (1 child)

      by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Wednesday August 03, @06:00PM (#1264810)

      just an infoblerb:

      the water in PWR is usually at around 70 atmospheres, ~1000psi, to keep it from boiling at the temperatures the reactor pile has to operate at to be useful. Any leak in the system and the water can and will flash to steam instantly, completely remove the coolant from a working core in a short period of time.

      The big advantage of MSR and Sodium cooled reactors is that the pressure of the coolant in the reactor's core itself is only a few PSI at most and it doesn't boil away in the event of a leak.

      --
      "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
      • (Score: 2) by turgid on Wednesday August 03, @07:09PM

        by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 03, @07:09PM (#1264818) Journal

        I believe that Fast Breeder Reactors (the ones that run on nuclear waste, ie plutonium) also run at atmospheric pressure (primary coolant is liquid metal, sodium/potassium eutectic) so can't explode. The problem there is that the primary coolant is liquid sodium/potassium (at high temperature) and the secondary is water so any leak from one into the other is an explosion risk. Also, the sodium becomes highly radioactive in the neutron flux. I believe there was an accident in Japan once where some primary coolant got out? Perhaps a solution might be an intermediate coolant loop using an inert gas such as carbon dioxide or helium?

  • (Score: 2) by dx3bydt3 on Wednesday August 03, @11:48AM (1 child)

    by dx3bydt3 (82) on Wednesday August 03, @11:48AM (#1264755)

    I spent a few minutes on their website, I wanted to find out how much output a "small" nuclear reactor was able to produce. The only figure I came across indicated a 462 mW, 6 module potential facility in Romania.
    Small scale nuclear power makes a lot of sense on paper, but I would imagine there will be as much or more public push back to having a few of these in the neighbourhood as we currently see with wind farms.

    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday August 04, @04:56PM

      by Immerman (3985) on Thursday August 04, @04:56PM (#1264933)

      Check their technology overview page: https://www.nuscalepower.com/technology/technology-overview [nuscalepower.com]

      250MWt, 77MWe(gross)

      I think the plan is usually to use a cluster of these rather than a single larger reactor. Still just one facility, but taking a reactor offline for some reason has a much smaller impact. As does the worst-case scenario of a catastrophic reactor failure, since each reactor is much smaller, and it's vanishingly unlikely that anything (short of sabotage) would cause more than one reactor to fail catastrophically. And the relative simplicity of replacing a reactor if it develops a fault makes it less likely that such things will be papered over to keep the profits flowing until something goes so seriously wrong that it can't be hidden - which I personally consider to be the greatest danger with nuclear reactors.

      Though, as cost, reliability, and reputation improve I would not be surprised to see single-reactor plants start popping up in out-of-the-way places.

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